Bongo tweezers

Bongo tweezers
Other views of this artifact:

Accession Number:
[Southern Sudan] [White Nile]
Cultural Group:
Date Made:
?Before 1858
Iron Metal
Hammered , Bent , Incised , Decorated
L = 110.8 mm W across shoulder = 68.5 mm, W grip area = 21.3 mm, W bar = 4 mm, Th bar = 3 mm, W tips = 4.2 mm [RTS 5/5/2004].
44.1 g
Local Name:
Other Owners:
This object is said to have been collected in 1858; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition through Bongo territory, an account of which is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; he refers to this group as the Dor. The expe
Field Collector:
John Petherick
PRM Source:
Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection
Donated 1884
Collected Date:
A pair of forceps or tweezers, made from a single bar of iron with rectangular section. This has been doubled over, leaving a narrow loop with teardrop-shaped aperture at the top, with the body then extending below as two short arms, before being bent back on themselves for a short length, then springing out to form two arc-shaped arms. The upper part of these have been hammered flat to form two broad areas with scalloped edges and a central rib running down the centre; this probably served as a place for gripping the tool when in use. Below this, the arms become narrow and rectangular, with a very slight angular ridge along the top and a flat underside; these have flattened and slightly curved tips. The outer faces of each arm has been decorated with incised designs. Three to four holes have been punched into the surface just above and below each grip area, arranged into rough triangles or lozenges. Each raised rib running between these groups are decorated with four groups of incised x-shaped crosses, with three further groups decorating the rectangular arms below. This decoration has been partially worn away on one arm, near the tip. There is further use wear evident on the inner surfaces near each tip. The object is complete and intact, with some rust evident; the outer face has been polished and the inner surfaces left largely matt. It is currently a metallic gray colour (Pantone 420C), and measures 110.8 mm along its length, 68.5 mm at its maximum width across the shoulders, with a width of 21.3 mm across the grip area and 4.2 mm across the tips of each arm, while the bar from which it has been shaped is 4 mm wide and 3 mm thick, with a weight of 44.1 grams.

This object was collected by John Petherick in 1858; in that year Petherick led a trading expedition through Bongo territory, an account of which is given in his 1861 volume, Egypt, The Sudan and Central Africa; he refers to this group as the Dor. The expedition entered Bongo territory on January 25, 1858, visiting villages called Djau, Kurkur, Maeha, Mura, Umbura, Modocunga, Miha, Nearhe, Gutu, Mungela, Ombelambe and Lungo. Later in February they passed back through the Bongo villages of Djamaga and Lungo again. T his material was shipped back to England in 1859 . Subsequently acquired by Pitt Rivers, perhaps via auction, as Petherick is known to have auctioned some of his collection through Mr Bullock of High Holborn, London, on 27th June 1862 (see the Catalogue of the very interesting collection of arms and implements of war, husbandry, and the chase, and articles of costume and domestic use, procured during several expeditions up the White Nile, Bahr-il-Gazal, and among the various tribes of the country, to the cannibal Neam Nam territory on the Equator, by John Petherick, Esq., H.M. Consul, Khartoum, Soudan ). This auction contained 3 pairs of ‘tongs’ (lots 36, 37 and 38) and 2 pairs of ‘tweezers to extract thorns’ (lot 39). This object was probably part of the latter group.

Schweinfurth published a similar iron object, also attributed to the Bongo, which he states was used for plucking out their eyelashes and eyebrows, and which had the local name pinoh (G. Schweinfurth, 1885, Artes Africanae, pl. IV fig. 13; The Heart of Africa Vol. I, p. 281). The decorative style of this object is reminiscent of lenticular knives made by the Bongo.

This object is currently on display in the Lower Gallery, case 85A.

Rachael Sparks 30/9/2005.

Primary Documentation:
Accession Book IV entry [p. 135] - [insert] 1884.60 [end insert] PRIMITIVE MEDICINES & INSTRUMENTS [insert] 31-33 [end insert] - [1 of] 3 thorn forceps; one with sliding collar. DOR tribe, C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. 1858.
Additional Accession Book IV Entry [page opposite 135] - 1884.60.31-33 No. given CW 6/5/98.
Collectors Miscellaneous XI Accession Book entry [p. 193] - PETHERICK, Consul [...] [insert] 1884.60.31-33 [end insert] (prim[ative] Med[icine]). 3 thorn forceps, Dor tribe, White Nile (one with sliding collar) [insert] .33 [end insert]. 1858. P.R. [p. 197] [insert] BONGO is tribe's name for itself. They are called DOR by neighbours [end insert, by BB].
Additional Collectors Miscellaneous XI Entry [p. 192] 1884.60.31-33, Nos given CW 6/5/98.
Card Catalogue Entry - There is no further information on the catalogue card [RTS 7/4/2004].
Medicine Card Entry (unsorted) - Native-made spring forceps used for extracting thorns. Made of iron. Length 11 cm.; width 6.7 (across, from edge-edge). DOR tribe. WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Consul Petherick, 1858. Pitt-Rivers coll.
Old Pitt Rivers Museum label - Thorn forceps, DOR Tribe, WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Petherick coll. 1858. P.R. coll. [circular metal-edged tag, tied to object, RTS 4/5/2004].

Display History:
This is one of only eleven objects from the Petherick collections which are not mentioned in the Black Red or Blue books, it is therefore possible that these eleven objects were displayed at Bethnal Green and South Kensington Museums prior to transferring here in 1884 [AP]. Current display label - 2 pairs of native made spring forceps used for extracting thorns: two varieties one of which has a sliding collar which keeps the points closed. DOR tribe, WHITE NILE, C. AFRICA. Consul Petherick coll. 1858, P.R. coll. [display label in case L.85.A; note that the sliding collar example, 1884.60.33, is not actually one of the two forceps positioned next to the label].

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council
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